The way the legs work in the modern golf swing is actually quite simple. It has certainly been simplified from years gone by, which is why this new swing is so much more consistent. By adding as much stability to your lower half as possible, you will find it much easier to hit the back of the ball cleanly time after time. There are fewer moving parts in this new kind of swing, and fewer moving parts almost always leads to improved results. If you are serious about building a swing which is going to hold up over the long run, taking the modern approach to the lower body is the way to go.

While it is your upper body that is directly controlling the club during the swing, the lower body has a lot to do with your success or failure on the course. Use your legs as described in this article and you should be well on your way to quality play. While the legs were once used to slide toward the target in the downswing, today's swing is focused on rotation more than anything else. Like everything else in life, golf changes over time and you will be best served to keep up with the times. Take some time to pay attention to how your legs work in your swing if you would like to progress toward a better future.

Legs Lesson Chart

Despite not touching the club throughout the swing, your legs have a very important role to play in golf. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes amateur golfers make is assuming that they don’t need to do much with their legs – that’s just not how it works. If you are going to make powerful, consistent, repeatable swings, you need to make sure your legs are doing their part.

In this article, we are going to talk about how the legs can play a productive role in your golf game. Even if you think you are already doing a pretty good job with your lower body, it’s likely that you can make some improvements if you consider the tips and points offered below. Even if you only pull one or two things out of this article that you can put to use in your own game, those minor changes could lead to big improvements.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

— What Does the Lower Body Do in the Golf Swing?

To get started, we are going to take a high-level view of how the legs should be working in the golf swing. A big part of succeeding in golf comes down to nothing more than understanding how the swing should work so you can take your technique in the right direction. If you are lacking a basic understand of proper swing technique, you’ll always be working toward a moving target. Educate yourself as fully as you can on the various parts of the swing and the game will gradually get a little easier.

Let’s take a look at a few key points which highlight how the lower body should work as you swing the golf club.

Legs Golf Lesson Chart

  • Support the turn. One of the most important functions of the lower body during the golf swing is to support the upper body as it turns back and through. When the legs are working properly, and they are in the right position, they act as a stable platform that makes it possible to turn your shoulders fully. Without that platform, you’d quickly lose your balance as you turn away and then started to swing the club down toward the ball. This is why knee flex is so important, both at address and during the swing. With flexed knees, you’ll have a strong platform and the muscles in your legs will be engaged right from the start. Many golfers make the mistake of standing with their legs straight and they lack the sturdy platform they need to swing hard and stay balanced. If you have ever wondered why professional golfers are able to swing so hard and still remain nicely balanced, look to their legs for the answer.
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  • Put the upper body in position. When you walk up to the ball to take your stance, it is the legs that will be getting things started. You’ll place your feet to the side of the ball, flex your knees a bit, and settle in for the swing. It’s important that you place your legs correctly because they will determine where your upper body is going to be as you make the swing. Without putting your legs in the right spot, your upper body will never have a chance to swing the club down into the ball properly. Again here, we see the importance of knee flex, as getting down into your stance with your legs will allow your back to stay in a straight position. Those who stand with their legs straight usually have to bend over awkwardly to reach the ball, hunching at the shoulders and losing that flat back position that makes a powerful turn possible. Take time to build a good stance with your legs and your upper body will be put in a position to succeed.
  • Get the downswing started. Once your lower body has played a supporting role in helping you make a big shoulder turn for a backswing, it will be time for the lower body to step into the starring role and get the downswing going. While it’s more your hips than your legs that should be starting the downswing, everything works together during this transition phase to build momentum toward the ball. From the top, you want to feel like you are unwinding your lower body first, while the upper body lags behind and gets carried toward the target by the turn of the legs and hips. It’s hard to overestimate just how many golfers manage to go wrong on this point. So many players fail to start the downswing with the lower body, instead using their arms to force the club weakly down toward contact. If you want to do one big thing that can transform your golf game in a meaningful way, learn how to start your downswing with your lower body. Once you adjust to this improved technique, great things will be possible.
  • Stick the landing. As if your lower body hasn’t done enough already in the swing, it has one more job to do – allow you to finish in an athletic, balanced position. Your finish position says a lot about the swing that led you up to that point. If you are balanced at the finish of your swing, with most of your weight on your left foot as you look out toward the target, you have probably done things pretty well leading up to that point.

Your legs have a lot to do in the golf swing, yet their role tends to be overlooked by many players. If you have not paid much attention at all to the way your legs perform in the golf swing up until now, a commitment to making your lower body work to your benefit on the course could take you to new heights.

— How Are Your Legs Working Currently?

At this point, we’ll shift from an overall look at how your legs should be working in the golf swing to talk about how yours actually are working. This is where things can get a bit tricky, since we can’t actually see you making a swing. So, you’ll have to follow along and analyze your own technique to the best of your ability. Being honest about the state of your golf swing is never easy, but it is the only real way to improve.

As you try to figure out what you are doing well in your swing with regard to your legs, and what could use some work, think about the key points below.

Legs Golf Lesson Chart

  • Are you making a big turn? A great shoulder turn makes it so much easier to strike strong, clean golf shots. If you aren’t getting a great turn right now, you might be focusing your attention on improving the way your shoulders rotate – but that could be a frustrating endeavor with little success. Instead, consider looking to your legs as a way to improve how your shoulders work. As we mentioned above, if you build a good platform for your swing by engaging your legs from the start, you may suddenly find it much easier to make a full turn. Ask a friend to take a video of your swing on the range and see how your legs are looking both at address and during the backswing. If your knees aren’t bent, or they start bent but then straighten up as the backswing moves along, you have some work to do. Take the time necessary to improve your lower body stability and there’s a good chance your shoulder turn issue will take care of itself.
  • Is there any transition movement? If you do record your swing on video, it should be pretty easy to see if your legs are doing their job properly during the transition phase. If they are, you’ll see your lower body start to rotate toward the target right from the top of the swing – before your shoulders start to turn back to the left. Unfortunately, for many amateur golfers, what will be seen at this point is pretty much nothing at all. The legs will just stay in place while the arms and shoulders start down toward impact. Even if your legs do get moving later, it will be too late for them to have any meaningful impact on the swing or the strike. Take a close look at how the transition of your swing is developing and get to work if you notice your legs taking a passive role.
  • Where are you at the finish? As mentioned earlier, the finish position can say a lot about the swing that led up to that point. Specifically, as you are reviewing your swing, look at what your legs are doing when all is said and done. There are a couple of points you can check to identify potential problems. First, look at where your knees are in relation to one another. If they are pretty close together, you’ve probably done a good job. However, if the right knee is well behind the left (farther from the target), you may have used a stance that was too wide – or you may have hung back on your right side in the downswing. On the other hand, if your right knee has gone past your left and is closer to the target, your stance was likely much too narrow. The other point to check at the finish is the position of your right foot on the ground. If most of the sole of your shoe is still on the ground, you didn’t rotate fully through the shot, and left plenty of potential power behind. What you are looking for is a position where your right toe is on the ground and the rest of the shoe is up away from the turf.

Most likely, you are going to find at least one or two things during this review that need to be improved. And that’s actually a good thing, believe it or not. If you didn’t find any problems, you wouldn’t have anything to work on, and you would be stuck at your current level. By finding issues to fix, you can make meaningful improvements and hopefully play better golf moving forward. Take your time to review your leg action and then get right down to work on building better habits.

— Two Drills to Improve Leg Action

Speaking of building better habits, you can use practice drills to get the most out of your time on the range. Specifically, the two drills below are intended to help you better understand what it feels like to use your legs correctly. It’s one thing to ready some instruction on this topic, but it’s something else to actually get down to work on change your technique. With the help of these drills, you might be able to make improvements sooner rather than later.

Legs Golf Lesson Chart

  • Two-stage swing. In this drill, you aren’t going to be hitting any golf balls, but it’s a good one to do at the range in between actual practice shots. You can use any of your clubs for the drill, but a mid-iron is a good place to start. To perform the drill, take your normal stance with the club you have selected and prepare to make a practice swing. Of course, be sure to flex your knees sufficiently at address to create a solid platform for the swing. Once you are set in an address position, go ahead and make your backswing, with a focus on turning your shoulders fully away from the target. However, once you arrive at the top of the swing, you are going to stop and hold your position rather than swinging down right away. Simply pause in place and hold your body there for a moment. Once you’ve paused for a second or two, go ahead and start your downswing by turning your hips and legs toward the target. Basically, you are just breaking your swing up into distinct backswing and downswing phases, rather than having them run together like normal. This will help you to feel how the transition should work, and how your legs should get things started. When you go back to hitting balls with your regular swing, try to remember how it felt to start the downswing with your lower body, and carry that movement over as well as you can. It may take some time, but you should start to get more and more comfortable with that type of downswing action.
  • Deep squat. While the right amount of knee flex during the stance and swing will vary from player to player, many golfers would benefit from getting down a little deeper. If you would like to experiment with getting down farther into your knee bend at address, try performing this drill. Take a short iron and prepare to hit a practice shot on the range. As you take your stance, instead of bending your knees like normal, bend down much further, almost into a sitting position. You don’t want to go down so far that you might fall over, of course, but try to flex your knees significantly more than you normally would for a golf swing. Now, that this point, you are probably in a position that wouldn’t really work at all to swing the club. So, slowly start to stand back up until you get to a point that seems viable for making a good swing. This is probably deeper than your normal knee bend, but that’s okay. Go ahead and hit the shot and see how you can do. How did it feel? If that felt like it was a little too much knee flex to strike a solid shot, go ahead and repeat the drill but come up a bit further this time. Repeat the process until you settle on a position for your legs that feels engaged and athletic, yet comfortable enough to swing freely.

Golf is a game that requires consistent, focused practice for improvement. It’s great to educate yourself on the game and various techniques, and that is important, but nothing will happen without putting in some actual work. We hope the drills listed above are able to help you make some progress with how your legs support your swing.

— Legs in the Short Game

To finish things up in this article, we are going to turn our attention to the short game. Sadly, the short game is often overlooked in general golf instruction, as many players simply want to make better full swings to hit the ball higher and farther. That’s fun, but a great short game can take you even farther than a solid full swing. Your legs won’t have as much to do here, but they are still important.

Legs Golf Lesson Chart

  • Building the same foundation. The legs are important in the short game for the same reason they are important in the long game – they need to build a solid foundation for you to hit your shots. In this case, you are worried about supporting a big turn in the backswing, but rather you just want that solid foundation so you can hold your body nicely still as the putter or wedge swings back and through. Most short game shots require you to keep your body extremely still while the club is in motion, and that will be much easier to do if your legs are engaged and your knees are flexed.
  • No transition move. The biggest difference between your legs in the full swing and your legs in the short game is that there is no aggressive transition move when hitting a short game shot. In fact, when you are putting, there should be no move at all – your legs just stay there and play their support role as the putter rocks back and through. When hitting chip and pitch shots, your lower body may move just a bit in the downswing, but that movement should be minimal. Short game shots tend to be most successful when you keep things quiet, so aim for staying solid while the club transitions from backswing to forward swing.
  • Use your legs for adjustments. One of the best ways you can put your legs to work for you in the short game is by allowing them to adjust for the lie at hand. For instance, imagine a chip shot where the ball is resting well below the level of your feet. When you take your stance, you can add a significant amount of knee flex to your address position to make it easier to reach the ball. Instead of having to bend over from the waist, you can keep your upper body position consistent and just use your legs to make the needed adjustment. The same idea works when the ball is above your feet, as you can stand with less knee flex – or even no knee flex at all. In fact, you can even use your legs to adjust for uphill or downhill lies, as you can flex one knee more than the other to attempt to level things out a bit. Spend some time practicing tricky short game shots while paying attention to how your legs can make things easier. When used correctly, you’ll find that you can take some of the challenge out of awkward short game shots by altering the way your legs are positioned at address.

Getting your lower body involved in the golf swing can take some work, especially if you are used to hitting the ball with an arms-only action. However, if you are willing to put in some work on the practice range, you just might be surprised by how much you can improve by using your legs more effectively. We hope the information and advice in this article will lead to some the best ball striking of your life in the months and years ahead. Good luck and have fun!